MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- A bipartisan bill in the Wisconsin Legislature will protect referees and umpires from violent fans and coaches.
The bill was introduced Monday by State Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and State Rep. Don Vruwink (D-Milton).
“If sports officials are verbally abused or physically threatened when they are just starting out, they are likely to quit the job and never come back,” said Vruwink. “As a long-time coach, referee, and umpire, I have seen a disturbing increase in unruly behavior fans. This bill is intended to send a message that there are consequences for bad behavior.”
Under the bill, actions that cause a sport official harm or put them in fear of being harmed would be classified as a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty would be a fine up to $10,000, or up to nine months in prison or both. The term “sports official” in the bill is defined as a referee, umpire, linesman, timekeeper, inspector, judge, or person who performs similar functions, whether paid or unpaid, at a sporting event open to the public.
If found guilty, the bill would make it so the offending individual would have to engage in 40 hours of community service and/or receive anger management counseling.
The bill has 29 Assembly co-sponsors and nine Senate co-sponsors.
Currently, 33 states have laws that protect sports officials, including Illinois and Minnesota.